Northern Ireland council may waive part of child's funeral cost
Northern Ireland's biggest council will tonight discuss a proposal to waive some of the costs of a child's funeral.
Following on from a move at Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council to cover the cost of opening a grave at any of its cemeteries for grieving parents laying a child to rest, Ulster Unionist councillor Chris McGimpsey is now calling for Belfast to follow suit.
It comes after his party colleague on Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, Julie Flaherty, succeeded in having the £52 cost of opening a grave at all council-owned cemeteries for the burial of anyone under the age of 18 waived.
Mr McGimpsey said his proposal, which was seconded by his party colleague Sonia Copeland, aims to see Belfast City Council cover all charges and costs relating to those services for children up to the age of 18.
He said he expects that council officials will examine current policies and bring back options for consideration on how grieving parents could be assisted in terms of their child's funeral.
"We already don't charge for children who are aged one year or under," he said.
"I understand the cost of this is not going to be extensive.
"Because Belfast City Council also has a crematorium, we will be considering the cost of cremation as well.
"I look upon it as giving the ratepayers of Belfast the opportunity to sympathise with parents who have lost young children. My proposal is supported by the Ulster Unionists and I would hope the other parties would fall in behind it too."
The proposal will be put to the council's People and Communities Committee later today.
Similar proposals are also being made at a number of other councils in Northern Ireland, including Newry, Mourne and Down; Mid and East Antrim; Lisburn and Castlereagh; Ards and North Down; Antrim and Newtownabbey, and Causeway Coast and Glens.
In England, the cost of a child's funeral is waived under a scheme supported by Prime Minister Theresa May.
Earlier this month Mrs May intervened to create the Children's Funeral Fund after being moved by the "dignity and strength" of Swansea East MP Carolyn Harris, who had been at the forefront of the cross-party parliamentary campaign following the death of her eight-year-old son Martin.
It brought England into line with Wales, where Ms Harris' campaign saw the removal of fees for funerals for those under 18.